B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins

Conservatives want to open up beer and wine sales

Party leader John Cummins says a B.C. Conservative government would allow beer and wine to be sold in grocery and convenience stores.

A B.C. Conservative government would allow grocery and convenience stores across the province to sell beer and wine, says leader John Cummins.

Cummins made the announcement in Kelowna Tuesday, standing in the the Glenmore IGA grocery store with the three Central Okanagan Conservative candidates by his side—Mike McLoughlin (Kelowna-Mission), Graeme James (Kelowna-Lake Country) and Brian Guillou (Westside-Kelowna).

Cummins said British Columbians deserve more choice where it comes to where they can buy beer and wine and that’s why he feels it’s important to increase the number of locations where those products are available for purchase. He added the convenience of being able to buy beer and wine where one buys groceries and other food items just makes sense.

Asked for his definition of a convenience store, Cummins said it could be anything from large supermarket to a small corner store.

“I don’t see the need to restrict any class of store,” he said.

Part of the reasoning for opening up sales of beer and wine in B.C. is to take what Cummins called “special interests” out of liquor sales. He described the government as a special interest group when it comes to liquor sales.

Asked about the potential loss of revenue to the province by such a move, Cummins said the  provincial Liquor Distribution Branch would still play a part because it would handle the distribution of beer and wine to the stores, just as it now does for provincial liquor stores and existing beer and wine stores.

Under the Liberals, the number of beer and wine stores across the province has increased greatly in the last 10 years, a move that concerned some communities when the rules regarding how close such stores had to be from one another were relaxed.

The Liberals have made other moves to loosen up B.C. liquor laws, including allowing restaurant patrons to bring their own bottles of wine to have with a meal.

“We believe in getting B.C. back to basics, and that means putting more decision-making abilities in the hands of local British Columbians,” said Cummins. “We’ll make life more convenient and affordable for British Columbians, and help grow the economy by removing restrictions on the sale of beer and wine in convenience stores.”

The Conservatives’ announcement was welcomed by the owner of the grocery store in which Cummins spoke.

Kevin Kothlow described B.C. liquor laws as “antiquated,” and said it’s about time the province allowed the sale of beer and wine at grocery and convenience stores.

“We are so far behind (with liquor regulations) in B.C., it’s ridiculous,” said Kothlow. “This will be a convenience for everyone.”

He said he did not anticipate any problems with the requirement that store employees see proper identification from people buying beer and wine because they already have to do that in order to sell tobacco.

“I think it’s great,” he said of the announcement.

But not everyone may be happy.

McLoughlin said he gave Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray and a group of young entrepreneurs a heads up about the announcement earlier in the day and said while the young people at the meeting thought it was a great idea, Gray was much less enthusiastic.

“He was  a little reluctant about it,” said McLoughlin of Gray’s reaction.